He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. Mark 6:48-51
One of the most significant things about this recorded event, for me, is that Jesus wasn’t walking on the water TO the boat his disciples were in. It says that when they saw Jesus “He was about to pass them by.”
I don’t know about you but I always assumed that Jesus was headed for the boat the whole time. I always read into it that he meant to catch up to them and walking on the water was just the fastest way to do it. But God isn’t being practical by walking on the water. This is pragmatism. He’s showing them something—showing them himself.
This is so like God! He never forces us to participate in what He is doing. He never forces us to accept him or interact with him in any way. Instead he simply reveals his greatness in near proximity to us and allows us the opportunity to engage with him, to experience him.
If the disciples in their fear had simply looked the other way; if they had ignored the walking on water out of fear of the implications, I fully believe Jesus would have simply finished walking to the other side and met them there when they arrived.
It is not unlike when Moses saw God in the burning bush. God was there doing something extraordinary and Moses, because of his curiosity, encountered God.
There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” Exodus 3:2-3
God made us curious. He made us want to know how things work—why a bush doesn’t burn, how a guy comes to be walking on the water. And so he uses that curiosity to draw us toward him.
In Moses’ case, as in the case of the disciples in the boat, God is doing something extraordinary, something beyond the norm. And in both cases he is showing himself to those around him; offering them a chance at something great and magnificent—himself.
It causes me to stop and wonder how often I see God doing something near me and out of fear or busy-ness, or my own agenda, I just don’t take time to engage God in what he is doing. How often do I miss out and he passes on by?